We have officially kicked off the Christmas season. Lights up? Check. Christmas tree? Check. Peppermint candle burning? Check. All the Christmas CDs out and lined up to be rotated through the player? Check.
The last few years we have driven up the mountains to get our Christmas tree (for a view of where we get our tree, check out Karen's pictures--we go to the same place they do), and last Saturday, Jason and his dad trekked up to the wilderness to cut down some trees. The thing is--which we knew ahead of time--we were staying up in Washington over Thanksgiving weekend, and had driven the car up there. Therefore, there was no real way to get the tree home. What we would have had to do is cut the tree, leave it at Jason's parents' house, and then drive the truck up there next weekend. The truck which gets approximately 15 mpg. The gallon of gas which costs approximately an arm and a leg (or just over $3 if you prefer). The drive which is 60 miles one way.
Turns out, we're not that committed to having a wild Christmas tree in our living room. Long story longer: we left the tree with Jason's parents who are going to find a nice home for the tree, and yesterday we went to Tucker's U-Cut Tree Farm (which is about 2 miles from our house) and chopped one down. It's a nice tree, even though I am not used to seeing shaped Christmas trees. They lack a certain character which I usually demand of my trees. Nevertheless, it holds the ornaments just fine and sparkles in a lovely way. Sydney is so funny and adoring of the tree. If she was out of the living room for more than 10 minutes, whenever she would come back in she would exclaim, "Ohhh! Look at our tree! Isn't it beautiful?" That girl has some serious Christmas spirit.
She got to participate in the hanging of the ornaments tradition, and for the first time Jason was not the one to put the angel on the tree. At first Sydney thought that a star should go on the tree, but once she saw the angel she was convinced that it could adorn the top of the tree. "She's beeYOUtiful," sighed Sydney. Once our tree was decorated, then she got to put some ornaments on her very own tabletop tree that is in her room. The favorite ornament? The Winnie the Pooh ornament, circa 1979. We got it from Jason's parents, who had given it to Jason when he was three. And coincidentally, Sydney gets it this year, and she's three. How about that.
Another highlight of the day was being able to give Sydney a gift that has been three years in the making. Way back in November 2004, Devon, Sydney, and I heard Chris Van Allsburg speak in Portland, and I managed to get an autographed copy of The Polar Express for Sydney. I checked back in my blog archives, and was reminded of some things I learned about Mr. Van Allsburg:
"Did you know that he was a sculptor first, and then decided to do children's books? Did you know he has two daughters, one named Sophie, and used them as models for his upcoming book (which is actually about two boys). And the monkeys in Jumanji were modeled after his two neighbor boys. And I especially liked his alphabet book called The Z was Zapped! ... a book about terrible things that happen to the alphabet."
I remember that I really like that alphabet book, but still don't have it. I remember that I loved the way he read his stories. And I remember looking at this tiny little person in my arms and not being able to imagine her ever old enough to appreciate the book, even though I knew the day would come eventually.
Today was the day.
As I was sorting through Sydney's closet, I saw the gift box that held the signed book, a CD of the story being read, and a sleigh bell (from Santa's sleigh, don't you know). I thought, This is the year she gets this book.
I pulled it down, and handed the box to Sydney who opened it with great delight. I turned the page and showed her the "very special page," which she thought was very cool and ran to show Daddy and Rebekah.
I took this photo back in 2004, and here I get to show it off again. Only this time, I can write about Sydney hearing the story for the first time, and ringing her sleigh bell at the end of the book. Add to it a rousing chorus of "Hot Chocolate" from The Polar Express movie soundtrack, and it is crazy exciting around here.
As many of you have commented already, I have to agree that experiencing Christmas with a child in the house is WAY more fun than I thought it would be. If you don't have a kid around for Christmas, you should just find one and read them a Christmas story or make cookies with them or watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with them. I'm not sure if just any child will do--certainly a naughty one will turn you into a Grinch faster than you can say Kris Kringle. But your regular, average, bright-eyed child would be a good pick for some Christmas adventure. I guarantee, their Christmas joy makes everything even merrier.
By the way, that Polar Express gift box came with an audio cassette tape of the book being read, and since we don't do cassette tapes, if you're interested drop me a note in the comments and I'll mail it to you. Going to Alida tonight, when I see her at Becca's Blog Bash!